Educational leadership & learning

Creating tomorrow’s schools

The future…

“What kind of future are we preparing our children for?”

“What do we need our children to be like – as human beings, citizens, individuals – if they are going to be able to cope with the challenges of the future?”

I have been extremely fortunate to work for an inspiring and highly forward thinking HT during most of 2013 and 2014 (Chris who tweets as @jenrebhen123). Having spent much time reflecting on and developing contemporary pedagogy for 21st century learners he summarised some very complex and detailed ideas into the following memorable vision for the learners in his school,

“Creative and critical thinkers who collaborate well and willingly make a positive contribution”.

Now as a HT of my own school I am developing a collective understanding of Powerful Learning and High Quality Teaching as part of our overall vision of growing an ‘Exceptional Learning Community’. Our aim is that every day, every week, every term all of our community grow and develop. That what we define as Powerful Learning and High Quality Teaching constantly involves through reflection and dialogue. It is not therefore a process that will ever end.

It is about involving all members of our community, which is why I was so pleased that one morning before school a parent and started talking about schools for the 21st century and she discussed in detail some of the messages that Richard Gerver (a previous HT) had shared at one of her company’s conference days. I was even more pleased when the following week when the parent lent me a copy of “Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today” by Richard Gerver. She suggested I read it as it fitted with many of the points I had made about how we are developing and planning to grow as a school.

I have started reading this interesting and inspirational book, and noted down many memorable quotes I wish to share with my staff and governors in the near future. After a term focused more on data outcomes, monitoring and dealing with management issues, reading this book over the holiday is just the brain tonic I needed to refocus before a new term. So although it is merely a list, below are some of the quotes I have chosen to share with my school community:

  • “We should look to the future to define the educational experiences we manage for our children. We must also learn to think more creatively about the way we package the learning, to make it exciting, relevant and dynamic”
  • “To be successful you must respect failure and understand the power that not knowing can give you. Very few ever truly aim high enough or realise their potential. The really successful never stop trying, never stop making mistakes and never feel they have got all the answers. The joy is in the journey.”
  • “Our obsession with mistake-avoidance and pass and fail is the enemy of a truly successful system”
  • “Education is not about right and wrong and it is not about studying to take exams; it is much more important than that…It is about relishing challenges, seizing opportunities and seeing mistakes as significant opportunities for development”
  • “You cannot develop a meaningful and powerful education system around data outcomes; the quality comes from the process not the product”
  • “Our children need experiences that open their minds to all the opportunities and approaches…in truth there is no one answer, one right or wrong”
  • “Imagine the power of a curriculum that puts the life and learning skills of children at its heart and uses concepts and information as the tools to exemplify and provide experience”
  • “Our children are organic, they are not machines. Productivity does not increase because the conveyor belt is made to run faster or because we create tougher production targets”
  • “Learning should be an expansive, personal and unpredictable journey”
  • “If we allow pupils a voice we must also act on their opinions, otherwise they quickly realise their involvement in no more than superficial…given the opportunity and the right guidance, children are extremely observant and innovative”
  • “Education should be seen as journey of discovery. It should spark the flames of imagination and light the fires of curiosity and development”
  • “A school of the future is about understanding the learning and management of that learning; it is about creating flexible, almost liquid environments that can change and develop as quickly as the world around them…with a commitment to young people and the future and the welfare and wellbeing of their staff”
  • “Schools should be seen as the meeting places of experiences that then become the centres of learning”
  • “The crisis surrounding education is stark as any we face today. The need for action, for transformation, is as urgent as dealing with the declining environment or the global economy. Our children are growing fast: there need is now!”
  • “For system transformation to take hold we must look within, change the balance of power and move our view of education forward. It must become less political…We must get over our fixation with academic standards and high stakes testing and stop believing that increased academic rigour is the answer to our future needs”
  • “It is vital that any school looking to embark on a transformation agenda must start at the core, the foundations…School leaders must find the courage to give the school community time; to resist the pressures of outside agencies to deliver within tight timescales. True transformation cannot be rushed and must be borne from clarity of vision that becomes a passion so strong that it drives the school and its community through the tough journeys to come”
  • “It is equally important that we don’t obsess with knowing what the final structures and models will look like before we begin the process of transformation…that will instantly defeat the culture of innovation and creativity needed to achieve something amazing”

And a few more (okay a lot more) that I also found compelling:

  • “We are learning, experiencing, processing and growing for as long as we draw breath”
  • “Our system for mass education has remained largely unchanged”
  • “When I became a teacher I joined the profession with a powerful sense of purpose, a moral imperative. I wanted to prepare the children in my care for their futures and to do so in a dynamic, exciting and rewarding way”
  • “As a parent I want my children to live happy, fruitful lives, making positive contributions to the world around them”
  • “The world of our children will be even more uncertain than our own. The rapid development of globalisation and communication means that the world will become more and more fragmented, depersonalised and decentralised…The imperative is that it is a world in which our children will feel comfortable and will be prepared to lead their lives. It must be a world that they feel they have ownership of, a world that they are empowered to thrive in”
  • “We must look to the future with a clarify and confidence and redefine the purpose of schooling”
  • “The real tragedy is that we are underestimating the potential of our young and of what they know and do. They are so much more independent as learners. They know innately how to deploy new technologies without having to be shown”
  • “It means that we must focus on helping our children use technology and their culture to develop a sound and rounded view of the world. We must help them develop the skills and competencies to deal with the information revolution and, most importantly, we must help them to realise that they have the tools and it is our job to help our children apply them”
  • “De-contextualising learning is something our system is very effective at and has been for generations. We teach through a series of subjects, fragmented pockets of knowledge… the vast majority of children don’t see school as learning for life, but as learning to jump little hurdles…our highest school achievers learn to play the game”
  • “What do we stand for it the eyes of our (pupils)? What behaviours do we exhibit everyday day to support (this)?”
  • “The fact that education is driven by policy, often to meet political and media-driven means has also resulted in a loss of customer confidence and empathy?…After all who are our customers?”
  • “It is a system designed so that we believe that success is measured by the passing of exams and that the most intelligent, talented and capable young people…are the ones with the most qualifications and highest grades”
  • “Schools are high-risk environments…where you are gambling with self-esteem”
  • “We live in a society where the risk of failure is seen as something to be avoided at all cost. We live in a world where there are two options: right or wrong, pass or fail”
  • “You only ever learn something new when you make a mistake or realise you can’t do something”
  • “How many great talents have had their flames extinguished by the system? How many truly gifted, creative people have left education believing they offer nothing because academia was not their forte?”
  • “Schools must be built for the future, to do that we must be sure that they are designed to educate our children not to serve our nostalgia”
  • “Some of the highest performing schools in our national league tables are offering our pupils some of the poorest educational experiences. They themselves have been sucked so powerfully into the no-failure culture that exams and league tables have developed that, as schools, they have become obsessed with maintaining and driving these percentages even higher. Parents have been sold the idea that the better the results the better the school”
  • “We must search our souls and return to our moral duties. We must ask ourselves, why we are doing what we are doing, who is it for and is there a better way?”
  • “Great leaning, a powerful education, is built on the acquisition of facts and information, of experience and skills”
  • “Knowledge evolves”
  • “Information can only be power if you have the skills to use it to develop your journey and turn facts into knowledge. Also knowledge is only powerful if it is important to you and your context, otherwise it becomes nothing but trivia. In theory, in the future, if our system remains largely unchanged, our children may come top in their local pub’s quiz league but we need to develop innovators, leaders and creative thinkers, not trivia experts”
  • “The truly great school is one that recognises that it does not house the font of all knowledge…that it is a delta from which many tributaries flow for all to explore”
  • “We must do more to help them understand the world they are growing into”
  • “The best Foundation Stage classes are a joy to behold and exemplify the greatest learning platforms. The children are not just happy but confident, self-managing, resilient and creative; they are able to hypothesise and investigate and learn at an extraordinary pace”
  • “Schools are so restricted by the impact that data has on our systems that schools are educating children in a climate of fear…Our kids only get one chance; each precious day will never come again, so every day must be filled with opportunity and the joy of discovery”
  • “There is no doubt that test results have improved…How much of that is down to the quality of learning and the educational experience is highly questionable. The fact that we have improved test technique and prepared our kids better to take the test is certain”
  • “Inspection, if managed properly, is an excellent form of accountability monitoring, particularly if you remove the reliance on crude data”
  • “Parents want accountability, but they want genuine measures that encourage schools to develop in the right ways”
  • “Increasingly in the world of tomorrow, people will be working for themselves. They will need to set themselves targets, plan their work patterns and work unmanaged towards deadlines”
  • “Our young people are criticised for their inability to communicate, to generate or sustain discussion…the the vast majority of talk in the average classroom is generated by the teacher”
  • “Schools are formulaic by their nature…We face challenging times, driven by over-prescription, fear of behaviour and a youth that the press would have us believe is out of control…in a rules-level world, feelings of a lack of empowerment are very common indeed”
  • “It is crucial that the school experience is holistic and that all aspects of the school day are of equal importance…We must give far more thought to these times of day (breaktimes and lunchtimes) and fill them with stimulating opportunities for the children to develop their social and creative energies”
  • “We must give them (children) room to make decisions and, at times, room to live with the consequences so that they can learn from their mistakes and choices”
  • “We must respect out children’s opinions, identities and choices and be flexible enough to work to them, rather than ploughing on regardless, imposing more rule and routines in order to smoother their individuality”
  • “Our children must be able to spend their days in environments that comfort and inspire them, spaces designed for them and, to an extent, by them”
  • “An organisation belongs to its people and it is vital that the physical fabric of that organisation promotes that sense of ownership and purpose. It should evoke the culture of its people and promote the key drivers for success…schools belong to the generation of children who inhabit them. It therefore follows that the spaces and environments that surround them demonstrate and support that sense of ownership”
  • “If education is about stimulating the development of aspiration and of values in our children, if it is about helping them connect with and find a sense of purpose in their communities, then as communities we must all work to make this happen”
  • “Our understanding about the brain, child development and education have accelerated beyond all comprehension”
  • “Our children need to develop their self-confidence, self-worth, creative and innovative thinking, team-working and communication skills, to have a chance of competing in the global market place”
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